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Salmon P. Chase, U.S. Chief Justice and Secretary of Treasury, Letterpress Copy Book

Secretary of the Treasury Letter telegram press copybook, June-Dec. 1863. 1 vol., ca 350pp. 

Beloved by bureaucrats and loathed by readers everywhere, the invention of the press copybook in 1780 was a boon to record keeping, enabling the efficient copying of outgoing correspondence without the need for duplicate writing. After being written with a special copying ink on a damp paper, the letter was set into a mechanical press with a sheet of tissue paper over the top and the pressure of the press with the moisture of the paper caused the ink to wick up into the tissue, which could then be read as an exact copy which can be read through the top of the sheet. 

This press copybook originated in the office of the Secretary of Treasury in the midst of the Civil War and documents both the commonplace and the extraordinary in a time of war. Written without flourish, the letters document the ebb and flow of a summer and fall that witnessed the fall of Vicksburg, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the Draft Riots in New York, not to mention the general demands placed on the office by the need to supply troops and enforce the blockade on the southern states. Sample entries include: 

• "Should the state purchase Enfield rifles in bond? Will the duties be abated?"
• "Have Lieutenant Davenport and each of the crew of the Revenue Cutter Caleb Cushing examined separately to ascertain if there was collusion in any manner between any of them and the rebels" June 29, 1863
• "Maj. Gen. Schenck instructs me by letter... to permit no goods to go into Virginia (with exceptions) or Pennsylvania within reach of the rebels, nor to the state of Delaware and no intoxicating liquors into any territory threatened with invasion of occupied by U.S. troops except for private use. Shall I obey the instructions?" Hiram Barney, June 29, 1863. The response, "Comply," obviously has in mind the Gettysburg Campaign then rising to a crescendo.
• "From the best information I can get the aspect of affairs is even worse this morning than yesterday. Mobs are organizing in all parts of the city and the worst apprehensions are entertained... Cannot you send a battery with a regiment to support it for the protection of the government buildings?" John J. Casco, NYC, July 14, 1863 Chase responds that he believes there is adequate force in the city already.
• "God be praised for the triumph decreed to the Cause of Union, Freedom, and the Constitution by the loyal voters of California." Sep. 4, 1863 (to F.F. Low, Collector of the Port of San Francisco)

Other letters in the collection refer to issues such as whether Low would be allowed to sell 3,000 stands of Prussian arms that are unsalable in California to Guatemala (the President forbade); a request to visit Vicksburg upon hearing the rumor that the Mississippi was now open (Grant does not advise the river is open); a note of congratulations on the capture of J.W. Alexander and James Thurston of the Confederate privateer Atlanta (Aug 21 to J. Jewett. Collector at Portland, Me.); and a letter from a detective informing of the arrest of a counterfeiter. 

A handful of incoming letters are tipped in to the copybook, including at least 5 from Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury. 

Fragile onion skin paper that is sometimes difficult to read. Good condition considering the format, with binding showing typical evidence of wear.

Estimate: $10,000 - $15,000
Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium
$11,750
06/11/2010

 

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